There’s a Million Musicals I haven’t watched… But just You Wait

First of all, props to me for being spontaneous! I had a post on another topic in the works but this felt more like my vibe today. (Don’t worry the other one’s coming soon too) So, unlike most fans of musicals, I didn’t like them at first. I felt like most musical aficionados (though I still wouldn’t call myself one) were the ones performing renditions of classic songs since they could form sentences, because that’s the very image people have in their minds- a group of Broadway crazy theatre kids or weirdly talented high schoolers. (Glee; even though you’re an amazing show, this is your fault) But that’s not true, a musical theatre fan can be someone who didn’t fully comprehend them until she watched Sound of Music in the fifth grade (I know). Soon after, I discovered more movie musicals like Mamma Mia and West Side Story, and I wasn’t as compelled by them as I am now but I knew musicals were something I enjoyed watching.

Before we move on– On 28th September, A Writ Much completed one year of being on WordPress! I love writing on here so much and interacting with my readers. Thanks everyone who’s supported and followed my blog this past year!

Coming back to musicals, let me tell you about the day I like to call my ‘enlightenment’. To my great dismay, I am not a thespian and even though I’d like to be Idina Menzel I’m her raspy alter ego. For this reason, I stuck to lip-synching while seeing musicals. that was of course before I discovered… Hamilton (I’m hearing a round of applause and cheering in my mind right now, even as I write this). I used to wish my love for musicals hadn’t started with a musical as renowned and popular as Hamilton. You know, it could have been an underappreciated but artistic and perceptive musical like The Light in the Piazza (look it up and watch it immediately). But then I realised, what could be more profound, distinctive and confounding than Hamilton?! Ironically, I don’t remember the exact month but it was the day after it came out that one of my best friends suggested we watch it. And my god were we left in awe. After this, I watched it two more times and soon, I was watching all the interviews, belting Satisfied and You’ll Be Back, reading about the hidden messages and loopholes, the history behind the lyrics and characters. The rest is… well history!

An accurate depiction of what my mind looked like after Hamilton

The reason why Hamilton is sort of a milestone and a musical I will always remember vividly is because I was so exceptionally bored then, at the beginning of the pandemic that it was an experience! Reading the endless Hamilton sources on the web and having the epiphany that musicals are more than a bunch of people singing. Broadway isn’t a piece of cake because writing music, a story through music and carefully crafted lyrics is as consuming and challenging as writing a book or a play or a movie. Hamilton was the beginning of this fascinating journey through a field I’d never taken seriously before and I haven’t invested myself in a musical as much after that because well, the sad fact is that I don’t have time to spare peeping behind the curtains (see what I did there) anymore. But, I do watch new musicals whenever I can and read a good amount about them.

I couldn’t stop at Hamilton of course so, I’ve come up with a plan all to discover the magical world of musicals. I started with movie musicals as they were just easier to access. After some quick research, I had a watchlist ready in my notes app, quite a bit behind on that right now but as soon as I can sit and devote two hours (three, let’s not forget rewinding so I can listen to ingenious lyrics) to a musical, I will be unstoppable. I began with basics like In The Heights (2021), then Hairspray (2007), Les Misérables (2012), Rent (2005) and the list continues in chronological order.

But, I couldn’t forget stage musicals that are a whole new world. I’m having a much harder time sourcing them so thus far, I’ve only seen two- one being Dear Evan Hansen just last month. The latest musical I watched was Everybody’s Talking About Jamie (2021) which is wildly underrated, why is the internet not as excited about it as they are about Cinderella??! I guess I’d just like to end this post by saying that, you might consider musicals boring and stupid but there’s a reason people keep making them. Musicals amplify any emotion you feel and when you’re in the grip of that emotion, hearing that song is a freeing feeling. No matter who you are, musicals make you the main character. So, the next time someone can’t stop talking about their love for musicals, don’t rain on their parade. Once you discover the tip of the iceberg we call musical theatre, you can’t stop singing about it.

Review: The Thing Around Your Neck by Chimamanda Adichie

After reading Americanah, an unputdownable book full of wit and vigour- I was itching to read another one of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s works and this anthology of twelve short stories did not disappoint. Coming up with twelve different stories, ensuring their plots don’t clash and their characters vary in their personalities all the while, sticking to the common theme of ‘the thing around your neck’ is hard to do but she has executed that effectively. In this book she’s given us some poignant and touching stories which stay with you long after you read their last lines. You can’t help but take a break after each one to ponder upon its lessons and meaning and really read between the lines.

The Thing Around Your Neck features the tales of various Nigerian women, all from different walks of life and varying in age. The stories are set in a range of time periods from the mid-1900s to the 2000s and the protagonists are from every strata of society and some are placed in the U.S.A as well. We see one thing common to all stories and that is the essence and culture of Nigeria which is alive in all of the protagonists. Despite being in different times and situations, the women are subjected to the same repression and orthodoxy, but remain empowered nonetheless. From exploring corruption in Nigerian authorities to the terrors of immigration to the oppression caused by gender roles, making us accomplice to ethnic-wars and riots and of course, her compelling feminist epiphanies, Adichie really takes us full circle.

Although this book included themes common to Adichie’s work, something I found unique to this book and what I believe she excels at writing is grief. Devoting certain stories to the aftermath of losing a loved one and the toll it takes on human beings, she’s given us an insight into a rather complex feeling well and told the tale with understanding and sensitivity. Such stories in the book resonate with you and are truly heartrending. One thing I recommend if you’re curious to know more about any story is to read its analysis and symbolism, I found a great site for this and I’ve linked it at the end.

I don’t want to disclose any plots or characters because I’d be revealing too much, but just know that this book has some intricate and gripping storylines. For those of you who’ve read the book, I wanted to reveal some of my favourite stories from the collection. Don’t get me wrong all of them moved me but some simply resonated with me more and were real page-turners. In particular, A Private Experience, Jumping Monkey Hill, Tomorrow Is Too Far and The Headstrong Historian.

The Thing Around Your Neck is one of the stories in the anthology, but it raises the question, why is it the title of the book? What is the ‘thing around your neck’? In my opinion, it’s the characters’ discontent, their past, culture or even grief and loneliness in some cases which is almost like a prison that doesn’t seem to leave them. The ‘thing around your neck’ is always lingering and casting its shadow.

Final thoughts~ Overall, this collection is a vivid and powerful one. It focuses on everyday aspects of life and relationship that are painful yet considered normal because everyone goes through them at some point. If anything, this book is a good reference for anyone looking to read short stories because the ones in The Thing Around Your Neck are great examples of what a sequence and build-up of a short story should be like.

“He said “see” as if it meant something more than what one did with one’s eyes”

~Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, The Thing Around Your Neck

REFERENCE:

The Thing Around Your Neck Guide

Review: Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars is an eye-opening novel reminding us of the most tragic period in human history. It is a story of bravery and courage, showing us how every human being has the right to make a choice and live with it. This book highlights the fact that, however hard you try, you can’t run away from your fears and will have to face them. Thus, the author poses the question, ‘if you’re faced with your biggest fear, will you rise to the challenge?’. The author takes us through wartime Copenhagen, a bustling and vibrant city torn apart by war. She subtly highlights the destruction and suffering war causes and the catastrophic damage done to people of all ages. This book tells the story of children who were forced to grow up early when they were faced with life and death situations and the world suddenly became a scary place for them.

The protagonist of the book, Annemarie Johansen is a thoughtful ten-year-old. She’s bold and very much aware of how the war is taking everything from her, including her Jewish best friend- Ellen. Annemarie tells us about the food shortages, power cuts and the German soldiers at every corner who ruin her beloved Denmark. The book is set in the very beginning of the Holocaust and it isn’t a typical WW2 novel because instead of focusing on the rather dark aspects, it chooses themes like bravery and friendship which truly withstand destruction and war. Annemarie is such an inspiring protagonist. She’s rather fearless for her age, willing to risk her life to save her friends but of course, she didn’t become that way overnight! The author shows us her progress from being a shy girl reluctant to stand up to Nazi soldiers to one confidently sticking up to them. You could say that this is a coming of age story because the entire book leads up to her summoning enough courage to help Ellen and her family escape and she gains so many qualities and skills in the process.

Final thoughts~ You will probably finish Number The Stars in one sitting- it’s a short book, sadly so, but it’s a heartwarming book that stays with you long after you put it down. I knew little of Denmark’s history of resistance during WW2 before this book and overall it does a good job telling less celebrated and well-known stories of heroism. If anything it is a remembrance of the courage, kindness and sacrifices we’re all capable of.

“The whole world had changed. Only the fairy tales remained the same.”

~ Lois Lowry, Number The Stars.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Book Review: Number The Stars

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Number The Stars by Lois Lowry

Review: Miss Austen by Gill Hornby (Birthday Bookshelf #1)

Series Alert! I am so excited to start my first series on the blog. Since my birthday just went by on Christmas Eve, I received several books as gifts (which is honestly the best gift you can give me) and, reading them and reviewing them feels a lot more special than it normally would. So, let this review mark the beginning of the series- Birthday Bookshelf! Shoutout to my dad for this book:)

At first glance, my brain automatically thought of Jane on reading Austen. But, the book is in fact about Jane’s sister- Cassandra Austen: The dutiful, compassionate, often undermined eldest daughter of the Austen clan. I love reading about the sidekicks of history’s heroes- the shaping factors and often only supporters in the idols’ lives. Like Patroclus for Achilles and in the case of this book, Cassandra for Jane. The book is told from Cassandra’s point of view. Cassandra and Jane were very close, they had the kind of bond that even reading about makes you smile, they were each the other’s confidante and best friend. So, it was pretty much decided that Cassandra was to be the executor of Jane’s literary estate.

The basis of the book was one of Cassandra’s doings as executor, which was that she burned some of Jane Austen’s letters. This is something that has set historians and scholars against her for years because those letters would be priceless in this day and age. The book revolves around a few months in Cassandra’s life as an old woman, where she comes to her (and Jane’s) best friend’s home to find the letters. As she reads them, they take her back to her youth and bring back fond memories of her life and her sister as well as some painful memories she’d wished to forget. Towards the end of the book, it’s understandable why Cassy chose to burn those letters. You resonate with her as she simply performed her duties as executor and chose to maintain her sister’s perfect image at a time when her novels were just beginning to flourish and a lot of vengeful folks would do anything to bring her down using somewhat controversial aspects of her life.

That being said, this book is an ode to the Jane Austen style of writing and the setting and way of life described was exactly like the kind in her novels. Throughout the book, I drew many parallels between the happenings of the life of Jane Austen and that of her characters. For instance, Cassy and Jane Austen’s relationship and their personalities seemed immensely similar to Jane and Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. It goes to show how she took inspiration from her world and expressed it so well.

The main focus of the book is Cassy though, and I adored her. Cassandra Austen was the more popular sister in society. She was ever-ready to help anyone who needed it and being dutiful and loyal towards her family was what she took pride in. She did have her share of difficulties though and there was this phase in the book where it felt like nothing seemed to work out in her favor and she became a pushover of sorts. It saddened me to see that even though she helped everyone, she never received any gratitude in return. However, things did pick up towards the end and I could not put the book down. The best part of the book was seeing the situation through the hopeful perspective of Cassandra. Making the reader feel what you’re writing about is hard, so kudos to the author for making me nostalgic when Cassy thought of her family and pensive when she described what women, especially unmarried women went through and how she wished people understood that she was happy even without a husband.

The book dwells upon themes of family, love, faith- which we often forget how simple yet fulfilling can be. Another theme that the book often mentioned but didn’t entirely focus on was that of women, especially in the Austen sisters’ time being ignored. Cassandra talks of how she read novels of men and their terrible lives but never of the difficulties in society or even in their homes that women went through. To an extent, I think the popularity of Jane Austen’s novels increased for that reason. Women longed to be represented, to see main characters they relate to. Jane Austen gave them that, she told their story for a change.

The letters included in the book are fictional and written by Gill Hornby. This was a fact I did not know until I read the Author’s Note at the end and I was surprised that Jane’s essence was captured so well, the words felt real. I adored the Austens as a family, they supported Jane and Cassandra in every way and were in general a vibrant family. I will admit though, that at some points this book was slow and there wasn’t anything interesting happening. Some parts just seemed unnecessary.

There have been many retellings about Jane Austen’s life but this was a fresh perspective because Cassandra saw Jane’s mistakes, saw everyone’s mistakes but remained admiring of them. They don’t become lesser in her eyes, or yours instead you resonate with them. That’s what I found unique about Cassy’s character.

Final thoughts- This book answered many questions about the misses Austen’s lives. It showed us why Cassy burned some of her sister’s letters, it showed us how Jane became what she became and who got her there. Cassy was defined (back then) by the fact that she never married, so were a lot of the other characters we read about. The book shows us that there was so much more to her, to them than that. Lastly, Miss Austen shows us why Jane called Cassandra the sunshine of her life. It also highlights how you can find perfection in imperfection, happiness in mundanity. Even if this book, doesn’t scream a strong message, it makes you smile and is the perfect light and winter read. If you’re looking for a book to snuggle up with, this one’s for you!

“Happy endings are there for us somewhere, woven into the mix of life’s fabric. We just have to search the detail, follow the pattern, to find the one that should be our own. ”

~ Gill Hornby, Miss Austen.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Book Review: Miss Austen

Book Review: Miss Austen

Cassandra Austen, Clergyman’s Daughter: Miss Austen, Gill Hornby

The Mystery Blogger Award

Last week I was nominated for two awards by the amazing Tia from Tall Blonde Tales! Go check her blog out, she writes some great posts which are definitely worth the read! Tia’s been a wonderful blogging peer from the start and I was super excited to be nominated by her. She’s also initiating Blogmas on her blog so check that out too! So, thanks Tia for the nominations. Anyway, I was nominated for the Mystery Blogger and Liebster Award and since I want to focus on both, this will be a two-part awards post. Onto the Mystery Blogger Award!

“The Mystery Blogger Award” is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.
– Okoto Enigma

Source- https://www.okotoenigmasblog.com/my-greatest-creation-yet/

Rules:

  1. Put the award logo/ image on your blog
  2. List the rules
  3. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog
  4. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well
  5. Tell your readers 3 things about yourself
  6. Nominate other bloggers of your choice
  7. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog
  8. Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny question (specify)
  9. Share a link to your best post(s)

3 things about myself:

  1. I can eat sushi for breakfast everyday if you ask me to.
  2. Sketching is my go-to during writers’ block.
  3. I’m one of those teens who’s crazy about her parents. (I mean, I’m not ashamed to say that I’m one of those rare ones :))

My best posts:

I’ve loved writing all my posts but if I had to pick favorites I think The Bechdel Test: A Call for Representation for it was a topic that I’d spent months thinking about and finally sharing my thoughts on it felt great. In terms of book reviews, I would pick Review: Pachinko by Min Jin Lee because it was not only an exceptional book which I enjoyed reviewing, but it also featured some of my best writing in my opinion!

Tall Blonde Tales’ Questions:

What have you done this week that made you feel good about yourself? 

Especially this year, anytime I complete the tasks lined up on my to-do list is when I feel the most accomplished. I’m proud to say that I successfully managed to check off everything on my list this week and it sure does feel good.

What were the last 5 emojis you used? 

💜🙈😟😍🤷‍♀

Describe the most embarrassing incident of your life.

Sports and I, don’t exactly get along, but that never stopped me from playing them whenever I got the chance to! So, once some friends asked if I’d like to join them in a game of football. Now, I didn’t and still don’t know how to play. Yet, I agreed and went on to play with utmost confidence- the stars weren’t in my favour. Throughout the game, I scored goals for the other team, kicked the ball off the field and I’m pretty sure ‘the weather’ wasn’t the reason the game ended early. Gosh, even writing about it makes me cringe in embarrassment.

What is your best achievement in blogging till now? 

Undoubtedly, my best achievement has to be being nominated for the awards. I’m so glad I started my blog because I love writing for it and interacting with everyone on the blogosphere. But, the nomination is my best achievement.

[Weird question] If you could switch places with one actor in any scene in any movie/tv show, which would it be?

I would love to be Saoirse Ronan as Jo in Little Women. It’s one of my favorite movies for a lot of reasons- the cast, the plot and it was also the last movie I saw in a theatre before they were closed. Honestly, you can name any of her scenes in the movie and I’d happily switch places.

My Questions for my Nominees:

  1. If you could interview any famous person (a celebrity, an author, a world leader even an activist) who would it be?
  2. What’s the first thing on your bucket list?
  3. What motivated you to start your blog?
  4. What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
  5. [Weird Question] Would you rather be in a musical on Broadway or part of an acapella group?

Finally, my Nominees:

Banter Republic

My Healthy and Wealthy Life

Fun With Philosophy

Caffeinated Fae

Yuvi’s Buzz

My One Penny Wisdom

I enjoyed writing this awards post and can’t wait to read my nominees’ answers to my questions, and learn more about them as well!

Review: The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles is a historical fiction that features the retelling of the story of one of the greatest heroes of Greek mythology: Achilles from the point of view of his most ardent admirer, Patroclus. If you’re familiar with Homer’s ‘Illiad’, you probably know of Achilles and Patroclus. Achilles- the prophesied warrior, best of the Greeks and a man who was idolized throughout his life. Patroclus- quite the opposite, an exile who was mostly deemed a coward because he abhorred the battlefield. There’s not much mythology tells us about Patroclus. I think the situation is so because he wasn’t a warrior, and lived in a society which then revolved around war, regarding any other qualities in a man insignificant. But Patroclus never wanted to be in the spotlight. We see how in the book too, he hardly draws any attention to himself.

I was skeptical about reading this book at first, having never been too fond of Achilles according to what I’d read about him. But Patroclus’ narration is such a refreshing perspective that it changed the way I saw Achilles, it even made me feel sorry for him. Mythology only saw Achilles as a fearless, skilled warrior and a ruthless savior. But Patroclus saw him as more than that. He knew Achilles before anyone cared about him. While most stories only talk about Achilles during the Trojan War, this book begins when he was still a child. When Patroclus was first exiled to Phthia, the kingdom of which Achilles was prince.

Patroclus loved him for many reasons. Achilles befriended him when nobody would, he always said what he meant. While others longed for that twisted game they called honour- he didn’t care about it. He pushed Patroclus to embrace himself for who he was. The book names countless other reasons as to why he stuck by him and they’ve been expressed almost poetically to the extent that I wanted to read them again and again. One of the biggest things I realized from reading this is that Patroclus shaped Achilles to be who he was during the Trojan War. It seemed like he was not only his confidante but conscience, shaping his actions and making him the hero everyone loved. Without Patroclus, Achilles would’ve been lost, and he was.

I was curious to see how the story would move along after Patroclus’ death. According to the Illiad, revenge for Patroclus’ death was the reason Achilles went on a killing spree and ultimately ended the Trojan War. The last few chapters of the book are heartbreaking, when Patroclus watches Achilles as a spirit, begging him to stop. The Illiad’s focus on the Trojan War was to show the loss, grief, and suffering war causes. The Song of Achilles also highlights the same because the Trojan War changed Achilles and Patroclus’ lives. The two were unwilling to go in the first place.

After I read this, I wondered why classics like the Illiad and stories of heroes like Achilles and the world he lived in, are still relevant today? But that could be asked of any classic or epic. Maybe it’s because they gave rise to ideas which we continue to value today, or love stories and figures we can still idolize. For instance, Patroclus’ longing to fit in, how the Greeks would do anything to maintain their honour and pride, their belief in togetherness and numbers, wars over differences. I can’t figure out if that’s the world refusing to learn from history or just the way it’s meant to be.

Final thoughts~ I love that the author sheds light on storylines and characters which are mostly ignored in the classics. They add a new perspective instead of the monotonous ones. Instead of descriptions of the battlefield and bloodshed we get to read about the atmosphere on the sidelines, where wives and workers anxiously waited for the war to end. I strongly suggest this book even if you’re unfamiliar with Greek mythology because the author provides sufficient background.

“Some men gain glory after they die, while others fade. What is admired in one generation is abhorred in another. We cannot say who will survive the holocaust of memory. Who knows?”

                                                                        -Madeline Miller, The Song of Achilles.

OTHER REVIEWS OF THE BOOK:

Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles- Book Review

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller